In her Bubbles & Pearls restaurant in Wilton Manors, Josie Smith Malave handles champagne and clams. On June 24 and 25, she handled sod and cinder blocks as she helped build a greenhouse for Kids In Distress in Wilton Manors.

“It’s probably one of my proudest moments,” she said.

The greenhouse is a “Legacy Project” organized by ML19 Fort Lauderdale, a gratitude training program. Volunteers also resodded a field, added a butterfly garden, and installed benches. The cost of the project was about $80,000, with the money raised by ML19. Minus the free labor, food for volunteers, and some other expenses, the value of the project is estimated at $100,000.

It was money that Malave considers well-spent. “[The greenhouse] will teach kids about the environment, where their food comes from.” She hopes it will also inspire them. “Who knows what these little kids will grow up to be.”

Garrett Green, project manager at Moss & Associates and project leader for the greenhouse, said Kids In Distress was chosen to receive the greenhouse because it was a combination of the desire of the members of ML19 to do a project that benefits children and promotes sustainability. “There was a strong connection to kids from the group,” he said.

The greenhouse will be solar-powered and water, collected from rainfall on its roof, will be used for the aquaponics inside. “We wanted a school environment to teach the kids. That’s the next part to our project,” said Green. Once the classes start, children will be taught how to grow plants and about water conservation, pesticides, and other related subjects.

While the greenhouse will give children a place inside to learn about plants, it will also keep out some unwelcome visitors who ate plants previously grown at Kids In Distress.

“Once upon a time our Kids In Distress team had this dream – to integrate sustainable gardening into our educational curriculum...unfortunately our local non-indigenous fauna (iguanas) thought otherwise and ate everything we have grown for the last several years,” wrote Mark Dhooge, president and CEO of Kids In Distress, on Facebook.

Dhooge also posted pictures of the Greenhouse.

“This is the result of the upgrade! We are so blown away by this volunteer groups' commitment to dedication toward our mission and care for our children!”